Swiss bolster EU sanctions over Ukraine

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GENEVA (AP) — The Swiss government bolstered European Union sanctions over Russia's annexation of Crimea on Wednesday but stopped short of imposing any of its own.

An ordinance from the Swiss Federal Council, which includes the president and six other ministers, affects the same 33 people in Russian President Vladimir Putin's circle that were hit with the EU's visa ban and asset freezes.

In a statement, the council said it "decided that Switzerland would take the measures required to ensure that its national territory cannot be misused to circumvent the sanctions imposed by the international community."

The 33 Russian officials and lawmakers are prohibited from using brokers or other "financial intermediaries" in Switzerland to conduct any new business.

They also won't be permitted to transfer to Swiss banks any assets they hold outside the EU. Already, they can't make such transfers from within the EU because of the European sanctions. The United States and Canada also imposed asset freezes and travel bans on Russian officials linked to the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

To some extent, the Swiss move tries to patch up their relations with the 28-nation EU. "The Federal Council's intention in taking this measure is to prevent creating the perception that Switzerland's financial center could benefit from the EU sanctions," it said.

Switzerland has suffered a backlash from the EU since narrowly passing a referendum Feb. 9 seeking to cap immigration for all foreigners, which goes against EU-Switzerland free movement treaties.

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